The addition of Colorado and Utah was supposed to strengthen Pac-12 basketball, but it begins conference play this week amid whispers that it might get just one team into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1978, when the NCAAs was a 32-team event.
No clear-cut favorite has emerged, and the schedule will play a role in determining the champ, because each team will face four conference opponents only once.
—The bad omens:
1. No Pac-12 team is ranked in the top 25, and Stanford is the only one receiving votes. Since 1994, at least two conference teams have been ranked in the final Associated Press poll every year but one, and that exception was just two years ago.
2. No Pac-12 team is among the top 50 in the RPI rankings.
3. No Pac-12 player ranks among the nation’s top 100 scorers. Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham leads the conference at 16.8 a game.
4. Only one Pac-12 player ranks among the nation’s top 60 rebounders, and that one player – Colorado’s Andre Roberson – is a guard.
5. No Pac-12 team has beaten a ranked team this season (0-12).
6. The Pac-12 is 3-11 against Mountain West Conference teams (not including 0-2 against BYU, which was in the Mountain West last season).
— The inexplicable:
1. Oregon State, which confounded opponents in Craig Robinson’s first two seasons as coach with a slow pace that produced 60.8 points per game in 2009 and 60.3 in 2010, leads the Pac-12 and is eighth in the country in scoring, averaging 83.4 points.
2. UCLA, which began the season 2-5, is 5-0 since dismissing Reeves Nelson, one of the conference’s two returning all-conference players (Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez is the other, and is now the only one).
3. Some unknown person hacked into the Oregon website after the Ducks’ loss to Virginia and added fictitious quotes attributed to coach Dana Altman that were derogatory to a Cavaliers player and complained about a pregame meal (something about the spaghetti). The fictitious quotes were erased but not before many hit the Internet.
— The top five Pac-12 freshmen:
1. Tony Wroten, Washington, 16.0 points.
2. Chasson Randle, Stanford, 11.8 points.
3. Nick Johnson, Arizona, 10.1 points.
4. DaVonte Lacy, Washington State, 9.3 points.
5. David Kravish, Cal, 5.5 points, 6.3 rebounds.
— The top five Pac-12 transfers (with former school in parentheses):
1. Justin Cobbs, Cal (Minnesota), 12.6 points, 65.2 percent three-point shooting.
2. Devoe Joseph, Oregon (Minnesota), 14.3 points.
3. Travis Wear, UCLA (North Carolina), 10.5 points, 5.1 rebounds.
4. David Wear, UCLA (North Carolina), 8.7 points, 6.1 rebounds.
5. Aaron Fuller, USC (Iowa), 11.9 points.
— The UCLA all-exodus team (players who started their college careers with the Bruins):
1. Mike Moser, 13.7 points, 11.2 rebounds for No. 19 UNLV.
2. Chace Stanback, 14.5 points for No. 19 UNLV.
3. Matt Carlino, 16.7 points, 6.3 assists for BYU (10-3).
4. Drew Gordon, 11.6 points, 10.5 rebounds for New Mexico (10-2).
5. Bobo Morgan, redshirting for No. 6 Baylor.
6. Reeves Nelson, signed to play professionally in Lithuania.
—Which team has the most favorable Pac-12 schedule?
It’s difficult to say at the moment, but it may be Arizona, which does not have to play Oregon and Oregon State on the road, and faces Cal and Stanford only once each.
—What is certain regarding the Pac-12 race?
Utah and Arizona State have no chance. Otherwise, everything is up for grabs. Any one of eight teams could win the Pac-12 title without it being a major surprise.
—Predictions: Predicting the Pac-12 finish — with very little degree of certainty. (Current record followed by preseason projected finish in parentheses.)
1. Cal (10-3, 2nd)
2. Washington (6-5, 4th)
3. Stanford (10-2, 6th)
4. Arizona (9-4, 3rd)
5. Oregon State (10-2, 8th)
6. Washington State (8-4, 10th)
7. UCLA (7-5, 1st)
8. Oregon (9-3, 5th)
9. Colorado (7-4, 10th)
10. USC (5-8, 7th)
11. Arizona State (4-8, 9th)
12. Utah (3-9, 12th)